10 Reasons Why Should Kids Meet Authors

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Many people see the benefit of kids being good readers, or, at the very least, of reading good books while in school.

Fewer people see the benefit, it would seem, of meeting the people who write the fantastic books that we believe should be a part of our kids’ education.

Of course, in many cases that’s difficult, or even impossible.  Meeting J.K. Rowling would surely be an amazing experience, but since she lives in Europe, that’s not possible for us.  Meeting Melissa Savage, who’s new book Lemons we devoured as our October book club pick, would be awesome – but she lives in the Midwest somewhere – closer, but still not in our current range of possibility.  My Little Man is currently reading Journey to the Center of the Earth and I know he’d love to speak with Jules Verne, but since he’s long dead – again, not possible.

But sometimes it’s more possible than you think to speak with authors.  Many have active websites, where you can get background information about them and their work.  Others have YouTube channels or active Facebook pages, where you can spend virtual time with the, learning about their journey.  Chris Grabenstein says that kids tend to ask him the same questions, so he periodically records a video of his answers.  It’s a fantastic way to gain information!

None of those are actually meeting them, though, and that might require a little bit more work – but only a little bit.  Many authors go on book tours when releasing a new work.  Others are willing to Skype with classes or book clubs who have read one or more of their books.

That does require work on your part.  You might have to drive to a distant bookstore, wait in line for pictures or autographs, or arrange for Skype visits in advance.  You might fight technology, traffic, or a busy schedule.

Why should you?

10 Reasons Why Kids Should Meet Authors

I think it’s important.  I think it’s worth the time and effort we, as parents and teachers, put in to meet these amazingly creative people.  I think our kids are worth that time and effort.

Why?  What benefit comes from it?

Here are ten reasons why I think we should make meeting authors, either in person or virtually, a priority.

  1.  They become real people.  The authors that write our favorite books are usually people we look up to.  We admire their creativity and ability to create new worlds, share wisdom, and paint pictures in our heads with mere words – and we tend to put them on pedestals.  Meeting them in person or via Skype lets us see that they are real people, just like us.  It helps us to view them more realistically.
  2. It makes dreams of writing attainable.  Kids often want to pen books just like their favorite authors do, and while not all of them are meant to do that, some are.  Yet we often hear about how difficult an author’s life is, how hard it can be to make a living as a writer, and those things are discouraging.  The truth is that while it’s not an easy career, it is possible – and our kids need to  hear stories of writers whose dreams have come true.  Authors are also the perfect people to provide encouragement to future writers.  Jenny L. Cote has been a huge source of inspiration and encouragement to My Big Helper.  Since meeting her, Jenny’s kind words, fierce hugs, and sincere discussions of book plots, characters, and life in general have opened up new possibilities for My Big Helper’s future dreams.
  3. It helps to bring the stories to life.  I love hearing authors talk about their books.  I love that Chris Grabenstein chose Mr. Lemoncello’s name because of his close connection with his grandparents and their Greek ancestry.  I love knowing that Jennifer Chambliss Bertman based part of Emily’s character on her own book nerdiness.  I love hearing Jenny L. Cote’s stories of deep faith and about the adventures that writing the Epic Order of the Seven series bring her.  It adds to the background of the story, and the more that background is fleshed out, the more real it feels.
  4. It teaches them perseverance.  While Skyping with Bertman yesterday, we learned that she loves to write picture books, and she’s tried to sell 37 of them – and hasn’t had a single sale yet!  How discouraging that must have been, and yet she didn’t give up.  She switched genres and sold Book Scavenger very quickly – after spending 10 years writing it.  She’s found success, her dream has come true, and yet it took time – and she had to stick with it.  Incidentally, she’s planning to write more picture books – she’s keeping that particular dream alive.
  5. It teaches the value of hard work.  Bertman, the New York Times-bestselling author of Book Scavenger?  She didn’t just hang in there – she worked really hard, too.  She rewrote Book Scavenger 8 times, and she studied the craft of mystery writing to improve her work.  She didn’t just expect her dream to swoop in and land on her desk – she worked really hard to make it happen.  Our kids need to learn that there is value in a job well done – in doing your best, and then working some more.
  6. We learn that there’s more than one way to become an author.  When we Skyped with Beth Fantaskey, author of Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter, we learned that this book grew out of her research to attain her master’s degree (from Penn State – WE ARE!).  I never would have imagined that as the background for this book – but she’s done a masterful job of turning women’s rights, murder, and the mayhem of Chicago in the 1920s into an exciting and yet appropriate middle grade book.  Chris Grabenstein worked in advertising with James Patterson before he began writing novels.  Tara Dairman’s foodie knowledge for her All Four Stars series comes, in part, from her experience during her world-traveling honeymoon.  To write, we must know what we’re writing about, but that doesn’t mean that the basis for stories all come while sitting at a table with pen and paper.  It’s a journey, and hearing those stories are not only exciting in and of themselves, but it helps kids to see open doors in their lives.  And really, isn’t it true that there’s more than one way to become an X no matter what your dream is?
  7. In meeting great authors, our kids meet heroes.  No, I don’t mean that authors should be put on pedestals any more than professional football players or movie stars; no human should live on a pedestal.  But I do think that we can recognize greatness in each other, and we can appreciate that amidst our humanness.  We can do that same thing with authors.  I met Jennifer Chambliss Bertman yesterday via Skype, and I’d definitely consider her a great human – she’s creative and amazingly persistent!  Chris Grabenstein is funny, kind, generous, and humble.  I’ve met and Skyped with him several times now, and over time I’ve heard him reference tutoring at his church, giving books away, and the value he places on family.  He doesn’t draw attention to it, but these are things that he seems to value, and they’re quietly there to find if you’re looking.  I appreciate those values in him, and the way that he shares them, and I think it’s important for our kids to see that there are people out there who are famous who have great qualities.  
  8. Meeting authors helps to learn about the life of an author.  My Big Helper thinks this is important.  At times, she thinks she wants to be an author when she grows up, and so learning about how publication works, the editing and revision process, the way that publishing houses work – it’s all important career information to her.  Not every kid dreams of writing as a career, but, hey, we teach them about firefighters and police officers and doctors – why not writers, too?
  9. It can encourage kids to read more and a wider variety of books.  Sometimes we’ve gone to hear an author because s/he wrote a really great book, but we don’t know too much else about him.  When he gives a great presentation, that usually means that we’re all inspired to go home and find other books that he’s written and give them a read.  We’ve found lots of great books that way.  Also, invariably some kid asks the author what his/her favorite books are, and the answer is usually that “there are so many, but I’d have to say that X and Y and Z are way up there on the list.”  That means that we end up leaving with ideas for books we want to read that were not written by that particular author, but inspired him because of the style/genre/word choice/setting/characterization/something else, and we leave with lists of other great books to read, too.
  10. It encourages kids to speak up and speak properly to adults.  I’ve seen kids hesitate to speak to adults, but especially adults they view as important (I’m still working on this, personally – I’m completely tongue-tied every time I meet an author whose work I love: Chris Grabenstein, Jenny L. Cote, etc.)  I’ve watched my kids interact with authors over time, however, and their speaking skills have improved.  They’re becoming more comfortable in these situations, and, sure, we could set them up with public speaking gigs or sign them up for a debate class, but this is a lot more fun – and we get to become friends with some cool people, too.

So there you go – ten reasons why I think it’s super important to make the time and effort to meet authors.  What do you think?  Have you met any authors?

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